Knowing what to do to help us stay well

I do believe that we always need to apologize for our behavior if it hurts other people. But we are NOT obligated to explain why we have to do the things we do in order to stay well. People without bipolar simply can’t understand what it’s like to live with this illness. We can help them understand, but we don’t have to make excuses for ourselves.

An acquaintance of mine […] said, “Are you busy?” I said, “No, I just don’t think I can go tonight.” She said, “You don’t want to go? I thought you liked baseball, Julie!” And then I felt pressured. I thought, ‘how can I explain to her that I might have suicidal thoughts if I put myself in that situation? How can I possibly explain to her that I might have to leave early if I have a panic attack? How can I explain to her that I could get irritated and ruin her evening or that I might get so over-stimulated that I might think that I had done something wrong and that I had to leave immediately?’

I couldn’t explain those things to her and finally realized I didn’t have to. I simply repeated what I said before, “Thank you so much! That was really kind of you to think of me, but I can’t go tonight. Maybe next time.” Of course I felt stupid. My mind said, “Julie. It is just a freakin baseball game. Why are you so weird? Can’t you just sit there and have fun for once?” But I know I don’t have to listen to those thoughts. They aren’t in my best interest. I have one duty and one duty only and that is to prevent mood swings. I don’t have to tell people why unless I want to.

Bipolar Happens! 35 Tips and Tricks to Manage Bipolar Disorder, Julie A. Fast

Listening to thoughts that were not in my best interest was my downfall for many years. I always wanted to make other people happy, often at the cost of mood swings that didn’t make me happy. I don’t have any friends or relatives with such a pronounced mood disorder like I have. No one did understand, and the valid excuses (for me) that I didn’t make hurt me and ultimately hurt friendships and relationships.

I always felt weird and not-so-normal

The crippling thoughts in my head seemed to circle around and around, endlessly. I was sensitive to light, don’t you understand? I need to take a nap, how can you keep going and going? I don’t think I can make that trip, I’ll be out of my element for too long. I can’t stay out late, I need to be home at a decent time, unwind, read for a little while and take my pills.

From a young age I knew that I wasn’t quite normal, I had a difficult time fitting in with the regulars. But I didn’t want to believe it, and I constantly pushed myself to be someone I wasn’t. To go places and fit in with those around me. For years it seemed like the only place I really fit in with others were during my stays in the psych ward. Being around people who had similar life difficulties, who were trying to make their way in a world that wasn’t made for them.

But during my most recent stay in the mental health wing, I had learned from my previous psychiatric visits. I knew that I was taking my prescribed pills, but my sleep had been suffering due to the over-stimulation I got from drugs and alcohol. Getting on a good sleep schedule was now a priority, as well as avoiding substance abuse. The ups-and-downs of my life were finally starting to wear on me. I had two daughters to help take care of and love, and someone special in my life who was helping me see things differently.

I started to get a good night’s sleep on the ward during that last visit and that has continued since I was released. The baggie of drugs stashed in my computer bag was confiscated when I checked in to the ward. It was the last drug I have purchased; clean for almost 10 months. No further psych ward visits since, and I am maintaining a regular, honest visit schedule with my psychiatrist. Life can be good, if you let it be.

Going up, coming down

Over-stimulation perils

Over-stimulation very often gets the best of me. I look for a quiet place where I can hide from the world and all the moving parts. But I usually get to a point where even that quiet place won’t get me back to my senses. Once I’m saturated with stimulation the only place I go is into a deep drop in moods and behaviors. I can’t be around others, and no one wants to be around me.

So these days I take precautions with everything I do. Who I spend time with, what I do or where I go, how much I drink (if I drink at all), steering clear of people who use drugs (avoiding temptation, as a recovering addict) and how much time I spend in all of those scenarios.

Avoid priming your mood swings

My mood swings are always there for priming. When they are lit up, I feel helpless watching the ensuing events unfold. For bipolars, there is no on/off switch once your moods are fully antagonized. My primary duty in maintaining a stable mental health is to avoid them at all costs. Even if others don’t understand the why.

 

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